Full Speech of Governor Bassey Edet Otu’s 1st Anniversary Address in Office

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Fellow Cross Riverians,

1. 365 days ago, I took the Oath of Office as Governor of our dear State, after your overwhelming vote at the polls. On that day, and even months preceding it, there was buoyant optimism everywhere. Cross Riverians yearned for the restoration of our lost glory and hope, through a deliberate return to paths which give assurance to these aspirations. The weight of expectations was enormous, but the means and ways to their full realisation were scanty and difficult to find.

2. Going into the elections, I had anchored my campaign on the dual props of People First and Season of Sweetness. I reasoned that every development not anchored on the people lacks the necessary foundation for its sustenance, beyond the life of an administration. After one year in office, it is time to review the journey so far.

3. In my attempt to achieve the programmes and projects of a People First agenda, I refused to follow the paths of our dark past, known for near total abandonment of policies, programmes and projects of previous administrations. I reasoned that every project, properly executed to its conclusion will in one way or the other impact positively on the people. I was therefore deliberate in adopting a path which promises to bring alive every investment of all past administrations for the benefit of the people.

A clear example is my bold return to the Obudu Ranch Resort which has attracted unprecedented support by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in figures which surpass all previous administrations put together.
The maximum utilization of the Teachers Retraining Institute in Biase and the upgrading of the State College of Education to a University of Education and Entrepreneurship, whose legal framework is ready for transmission to the State House of Assembly for passage into Law, and the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in the University of Cross River State are eloquent expressions of that belief. In the same vein, government’s effort to complete the Obudu Cargo Airport as well the ongoing efforts to strengthen the CallyAir fleet with 5 (Five)additional airplanes in order to reduce the air traffic problems of Cross Riverians are consistent with my administraton’s policy of continuity in governance.

4. Fellow Cross Riverians, I have also put in place and even commenced appropriate steps to regain lost assets of the State, such as Tinapa, Oban Plantation, Akamkpa Rubber Plantation and several of such State assets which were wrongly sold out.Similarly, the State is bidding for the purchase of the Odukpani Power Plant, while efforts are in top gear to achieve joint ownership of the UNIDO Power Plant in Obudu.

5. The task of continuity of past projects and the necessity to oen new areas of development opportunities in the State challenged us to embrace technology to strengthen our hitherto weak economic base and introduce efficiency in governance.This led us to restore fibre links to all the MDAs for internet connectivity, and presently undertaking repair of the Cross River State Metro fibre links to provide internet for domestic and institutional use.

Nationally, we have put the State in the Digital Innovation, Science and Technology Limelight, which made it to be declared the best State in Digital Innovation, and presented with the prestigious NG Award by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA), in addition to being declared the Overall Best Award in the 2024 Science and Technology Expo, by the Federal Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology. Little wonder, PRODA, an Agency of the Federal Ministry of Science,Innovation and Technology has decided to establish its Regional Office in Cross River State. All in all, the State has made significant strides within the past one year in advancing its digital infrastructure and services and is implementing a Central Payment and Authentication System (CAS), to streamline financial transactions and enhance the visibility of tax-related activities.

6. The immediate impact of all these innovations is growth of IGR from N20.5 Billion in 2022 to N30.8 Billion in 2023, representing an increase of 50.24 %. It also grew by 60.6% or N22.6 Billion from June 2023 to N36 Billion in May 2024. N16.3 Billion was recorded between January 2024 to May 2024 from the initial N10.5 Billion during the same period in 2023, representing a 55% growth. During the same period, the State moved from its permanent 28th position to being among the first 10 States in accountability index, through its timely delivery of records to relevant authorities.

It also won a $4,000,000 (Four Million Dollars) for the first time through its DLI achievements in SABER, and equally qualified for the 2nd year IVA screening, and is now rated 2nd best in the federation. Added to these laudable improvements on our finances, the State successfully hosted the Governor’s Round Table with Diplomatic Missions to further present the State as an investor’s haven, reactivated the Cross River State Reserve Fund, and had constructive engagements with multilateral agencies, which yielded results with the securing of funding from AFREXIM Bank for the Deep Sea Port and other major projects in the State.

7. As we reflect over the distance covered within the past first year in this fourth cycle of our democracy, let us focus on both the visible and the invisible, the tangible and intangible. Peace and security, veritable ingredients of all development, have during this priod witnessed unprecedented improvement and with them guarantee for social protection to individual and group investment and well-being. Except for very minor vestiges of the past, the State has restored its lost glory in this regard and people now go about their businesses almost without the faintest memory of the intensity of the inglorious past.

8. It is therefore with great humility that I have the singular honour and delight to announce to Cross Riverians that from these foundational and continuity issues, we have made considerable concrete achievements over the past one year. Even the blind can see and the deaf can hear, that the once spirit-dampening City of Calabar,characterised with filth, potholes, decades long abandoned interconnecting road networks and dark nights has within one year of my administration regained its pride and blazing glory. Alongside the peace and security earlier mentioned, the attributed acronym of Calabar- Come And Live And Be At Rest, has assumed a renewed fulfilment. The massive renovations going on in the Governor’s Office and Lodge as well as the Deputy Governor and Speaker’s Lodges are intended to complement the new look that the State capital is wearing and at the same time provide the needed showcase as the central locations of state power.

9. From Calabar, the wave of sweetness has begun its movement to other parts of the State with the commencement of Nsan- Oban Road in Akamkpa, construction of Ugep, Ikom and Ogoja road networks, completion of Ogoja Stadium and construction of Yahe-Wanakom-Wanikade Road, in the same way in which the water works in Ikom and Ogoja are being attended alongside the one in Calabar. In the Primary and Secondary education sector of the State, we successfully effected the payment of 2024 WAEC registration fee to the tune of N446,271,000.00 (Four Hundred and Forty Six Million, Two Hundred and Seventy One Thousand Naira) only for 16,301 SS 3students of Cross River State origin, constructed 26 No. 4 classroom blocks and rehabilitated 3 No. classroom blocks. Government also distributed 9,000 plastic chairs/tables to pre-primary and primary schools across the 3 senatorial zones of the State.

In order to halt the waste that has characterised the Institute of Technology and Management (ITM) Ugep, the State government has engaged the Federal Ministry of Education to take over the institution and turn it into a campus of the Federal Polytechnic there. A visit to the institution has already been made and the handover will soon be completed

10. Fellow Cross Riverians, we are all aware that since the loss of 76 oil wells, following the unfortunate ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula, the economic fortunes of the State have drastically dwindled. I was convinced from the very beginning that if my administration is to make a difference in the lives of the people by bringing into effect the Season of Sweetness, certain bold steps have to be taken. I was determined that Cross River must regain its membership in the exclusive club of oil producing States within the first term of my administration.

It is therefore with pride and excitement that I announce to Cross Riverians that the State is a reservoir of vast oil and gas resources with the commencement of drilling in two oil blocs, as well as ongoing re-entry of abandoned cat-wells. This has prompted meetings/discussions with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), and other stakeholders towards full exploration and production which will lead to the attainment of an oil producing status with its attendant benefits.

In addition to this realisation, the recent visit by the National Boundary Commission on the request by the Cross River State Government, for a revisit of the precise location of oil wells along our boundaries with neighbouring States has sufficient promise that past decisions against the iState were incorrect. Cross River State is surely on the road of recovering some of its oil wells.

11. Firm in my belief that agriculture is the mainstay of our economy, we have conducted a comprehensive soil fertility survey of Cross River State, leading to the establishment of reliable soil fertility/survey/mapping of the entire land. We have also distributed farm inputs to 1,080 beneficiaries,rehabilitated 17 farm access roads with 4,250 beneficiaries utilizing them, established 286 incomes earning Agric enterprises and seconded 2000 incubates to undergo membership. Similarly, work on the planting of 3.5 Million (Three Million, Five Hundred Thousand) oil palm seedlings have commenced, while other interventions in other cash crops are currently being tackled. We have commenced this through an aggressive campaign to elevate our oil palm production status, by collaborating with the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) and the Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria, to help develop the sprouted nuts into oil palm seedlings, for onward distribution to our small holders’farmers at subsidised rates. The development of the field nurseries is ongoing across the 13 designated locations in the State.

12. The re-establishment of the Cross River State College of Agriculture and Forestry, Ovonum, Obubra Local Government Area, is no longer news. Full academic activities will commence in late 2024 to enable the State train sufficient middle level manpower in those areas of need. Through this College, an aggressive forestry programme with the development of a 3 million tree plant nursery wil be a priority to restore our lost forest.

13. We have also commenced the single largest agricultural productivity reform with the launch of the transparent and digitally managed N30B commercial agric development fund,called Project Grow. The project is a six-year private sector led Commercial Agriculture Credit guarantee scheme, which seeks to close the collateralization gap needed for agribusinesses to scale up their businesses. The project,which covers the 5 value chain of maize, rice, cassava, cattle fodder and fisheries, seeks to create 100,000 direct jobs with over N 50B in revenues. Currently, organizations like Flour Mill Plc are in talks with the Project to off-take yellow maize which will be produced locally, with many value chain actors benefitting from the off-take. We have off-takers for cattle fodder and rice paddy from in-country and foreign interests.

14. In line with our own desire to run an all year round agricultural production, we have initiated the Cross River State-wide Irrigation Infrastructure Development Project (SWIID) to carry out the study and design for subsequent irrigation projects across the State, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Office of the Surveyor General, Forestry Commission, Agricultural Development Project, as well as relevant development partners, so that we can take sustainable and long term holistic decisions in regards to irrigation.

15. We have also approved and commenced the extension of the current smallholder cocoa development scheme, to include the development of estates in Akamkpa,Akpabuyo, Odukpani, Ikom, Obubra and Bekwarra Local Government Areas in the first phase. And efforts are underway to regain moribund cocoa estates in lkom and Obubra so as to include them in the small holders’ scheme of the next allocation exercise.

16. In the health sector, my administration over the past one year embarked on the revitalization of several Primary Health Centres, the ongoing construction of Ikom General Hospital and the establishment of a modern fistula facility in Calabar General Hospital. Equally, two medical oxygen plants have been completed for use in Calabar and Ogoja General Hospitals, just as the Essential Drug Programme Central Warehouse and the Microbiology Reference Laboratory at the Dr. Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital, all vandalized by ENDSARS protest have been fully renovated and put to effective use.

17. Let me seize this opportunity to assure Cross Riverians also that just as I was magnanimous in matters of palliatives to all sections of the State, I have also raised the minimum earning wage of workers in the State service to the extent that our present finances can accommodate. It is my hope that following dissatisfaction by Labour Unions on the new minimum wage, this will be reviewed upwards once the various policies, programmes and activities start yielding expected fruits.

18. Fellow Cross Riverians, today our dear State is second only to Lagos State in the prospective advancement index, which takes into consideration our potential resources and organisational plans. The past 365 days of my administration has succeeded in uplifting the spirit of our people to the task of development, by instilling in everyone, through our policies and programmes, our capacity to achieve and even surpass all others. Tis self-belief is the ultimate foundation of development and the high point of my achievement over the past one year. The next 3 years promise a multiple fold expansion of the dividends of democracy under my leadership.

19. In conclusion my dear Cross Riverians, I have spent my first one year in office as Governor, laying the foundation of a strong economy, through its diversification and introduction of policies which promote increased internal revenue generation, up scaling infrastructural deficits and ensuring continuity in the implementation of all previous government projects and programmes; I have improved the overall peace and security of the State in order to guarantee citizen’s well-being and protection in pursuant of their legitimate endeavours. Above all, I have renewed hope in our ability to achieve the greatness we so eagerly yearn.

20. Thank you for listening and God bless Cross River State.